Paul Koudounaris, who’s also identified by his nickname ‘Indiana Bones’ is an writer, photographer and principal authority on bone-decorated sites and ossuarys. Earlier in 2013, Koudounaris published a hardback that includes high definition images of the 400-year-old ‘catacomb saints’ of Rome, a bunch of corpses that was painstakingly adorned with jewels and finery prior to being offered as the remains of saints to congregations around Europe.
Throughout the Protestant Reorganization of the 16th Century, Catholic churches were routinely stripped of their relics, symbols and finery. So they can counter this, The Vatican had antique skeletons removed from the Catacombs of Rome and lavishly bejeweled as a remnants of renowned saints.
Though typically forgotten until Koudounaris published his book, the catacomb saints continue to fascinate fascinated parties; they may still encourage religious zeal. In 1977, the town of Ruttenbach in Bavaria labored hard to gain sufficient money to buy back two of their original saints from confidential collectors, the decorative skeletons had originally been auctioned off in 1803.
The book, that Koudounaris has cautiously titled ‘Heavenly Bodies’ sees its writer attempt to locate and photograph each of the surviving catacomb saints.
In their heyday (a era that lasted over 200 years before decisively coming to a close within the 19th century), the saints traversed everywhere, being transported at great expense by the Church. They were venerated as objects of affection, or conduits for prayer.
Though the saints may seem unusual to contemporary eyes (one Telegraph reporter described these as ‘ghastly’), it is important to remember that those who prayed at the feet of those gilded cadavers were a lot nearer to demise than their modern counterparts. While in the wake of The Black Death (which recurred often right through Europe from the 14th to the 17th Centuries), art, literature and also worship had moved to accept such ghoulish, macabre images.
The remnants were regularly garlanded by nuns and often positioned in a range of realistic poses, before being protected in glass cabinets. Some of our scrupulous decoration took as long as five years to finish, with jewelry and costumes being acutely impressive.
Koudounaris’ book, ‘Heavenly Bodies’ is on the market now.